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Empowering Stakeholders To Act

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Surely government employees at the Texas Railroad Commission would take great pride in taking care of trains in the Lone Star State. It’s too bad, then, that the agency has no authority over railroads.

How could this be? Surely the second word in the title of this official body tells us what they do. But that’s not the case. One story explains:

In 2005, when its last shred of authority over railroads was transferred to another agency, the Texas Railroad Commission’s name became a misnomer.

At its creation in 1891, the Texas Railroad Commission was tasked with regulating railroads and protecting farmers who had quickly found themselves depending on the new mode of transportation to move their product to market.

Oil and gas didn’t enter the agency’s purview until 1917, when the Legislature tasked it with regulating pipelines. Over the next 20 years, the commission oversaw much of the state’s oil boom.

Most state-level railroad regulation now comes from the Texas Department of Transportation.
From receptionist to commissioner, agency employees regularly have to explain to people that they have nothing to do with trains or train schedules.

“They need to have a name that’s clear to understand,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. “It’s horrible in terms of the public having any clue of where to go with concerns and complaints.”

So what’s the big deal? Why not just change the name?

Steam Train

© Flickr user Tejvan Pettinger

Changing Anything Costs Money

There’s certainly a price tag associated with this change. The Commission reports that updating signs, forms, and publications would cost $100,000 alone. Furthermore, updating the title of the agency would break nearly a hundred years of Texas tradition.

Of course, the state is already paying a tremendous cost by using the outdated name. Those employees waste time every day when they have to explain that the Texas Railroad Commission is not actually in charge of the railroads. Politicians waste time every few years debating—and then discarding—various proposals to rechristen the organization.

Changing Anything Requires People Capable of Making Change

The fundamental problem with this issue, however, is that the stakeholders are not sufficiently empowered to act. Citizens, public officials, and companies that deal with the everyday business of the Commission have neither the authority nor even the voice to make such an obvious change.

When we can’t change what we want to change, we become frustrated. And it’s those kinds of emotions that inhibit productivity, personal satisfaction, and employee engagement. The right answer is that someone needs to have the ability to make the decision. Since no one has that power, no one does, and the problem continues.

Putting People In Charge

At AccelaWork, we believe that productive, effective workplaces are run by stakeholders. When the people involved in a process have ownership in the process, the organization thrives. That is easier said than done. You need decision-making systems. You need to have some kind of structure, whether it is a hierarchical or self-organizing. You need a way for people to fairly discuss and debate. And you need a way to communicate change to everyone. It’s work.

Are you dealing with the challenges of today but still using names or techniques that are no longer accurate? Reach out to our consultants to learn more about what we do. We want to help your organization do what it was built to do. And if you’re carrying the baggage of an old name that doesn’t apply any more, it’s time to cast off that misnomer and be proud of who you are today.

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